Business groups have called for a ban on QANTAS-style strikes over job security. In response to the Gillard Government’s review into the Fair Work Act, Australia’s peak business body, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has called for a change in the Act to prevent QANTAS-style disputes where workers have been pushing to limit the use of contractors and the outsourcing of work.

ACCI Chief Executive Peter Anderson said that the Fair Work Act should regulate wages and conditions but not eat into management decision-making and frustrate necessary change and innovation. He also noted that the laws had been an “overreaction” to the WorkChoices reforms of the Howard Government and were a “slow burn on the economy”.

He was supported in his assertions by the Business Council of Australia, which noted that flexibility arrangements were crucial to maintaining productivity and that it should be unlawful for unions to try and restrict the use of contractors.

ACCI has also called for restrictions on unfair dismissal claims and a review of penalty rates.

Earlier this year, the Australian Human Resources Institute found that 65 per cent of its research subjects were taking far longer to strike deal with unions.  Australian Mines and Metals Association research, undertaken by RMIT, showed that 71.4 percent of resource industry employers surveyed experienced delays in negotiations under the Fair Work Act. AMMA Chief Executive Steve Knott says this is hardly surprising when firms such as ADJ consulting were forced by Fair Work Australia to adopt provisions to actively promote union membership to workers, encourage union meetings among delegates and accommodate unannounced entry into the workplace by union officials.

Unions have reacted by saying that flexibility means wage cuts, while the Greens are currently trying to legislate for laws giving further flexibility to parents and carers.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten maintains his belief that the Fair Work Act is a “robust system”.

IHR observes that many employers outsource or use contractors to manage seasonal and other peaks or boost productivity.  However, while important and sometimes indispensable, contractors are not a panacea for the overall business.  It is important to ensure that the overall workplace culture is positive and productive and the core workforce motivated and satisfied in their roles.

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